San Pedro Bautista and Beato Takayama Ukon: Martyrs who Blessed the Philippines

Today, I would like to dedicate a few words to two holy men who are all but forgotten by the younger generations of the Philippine Church or else not given the honor they are due.

            Christianity has been around in the Philippines for almost 500 years. Nonetheless, there are only two canonized Filipino saints: Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod. Compare it with China, Korea, and Vietnam which have hundreds of canonized saints each. And I believe that one of the reasons of such a difference is that Filipinos are forgetful. We do not have a love and dedication to history. As such, the witness of the Filipinos eligible for canonization continues to gather dust due to indifference and ignorance. Their testimonies become lifeless records instead of becoming fountain of blessings redeeming our nation.

            So here are two saints, who even though are not Filipinos, they became conduits of grace which blessed our country.

            Pedro Blasquez, now known as San Pedro Bautista was born in San Esteban del Valle, Spain on June 29, 1542 and died as one of the 26 Protomartyrs of the Japanese Church. Priorly tortured and shamed, they were raised on crosses and speared to death in Nagasaki on February 5, 1967. Their feast is celebrated by the Universal Church as an Obligatory Memorial every February 6.

            San Pedro Bautista was a priest from the Alcantarine branch of the Franciscan order and came as a missionary to the Philippines in 1584. He then became the Parish Priest of Lumban, Laguna. He might had labored extensively since he is credited as being the organizer of several communities and parishes in Laguna such as Longos, Paete, and Pakil (the choice of San Pedro de Alcantara as patron saint of Pakil was plausibly made by him as an Alcantarine Franciscan) and Quezon (the Parish in Candelaria was dedicated to him). His recorded act of teaching music and manufacture of musical instruments endured as a legacy and culminated in bringing forth Marcelo Q. Adonay, dubbed as the Prince of Church Music from Pakil, Laguna. His legacy is further honored contemporarily by the yearly Piedrista Festival in Quezon City. His image is enthroned in a niche in the retablo mayor of St. James the Apostle Parish in Paete.

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Monument of San Pedro Bautista in Los Banos, Laguna

Being the man responsible for giving Los Baños, Laguna its name after discovering its hot springs and their medicinal effects, his image is also enthroned in the retablo menor of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Los Baños. A dilapidated and neglected monument of the saint can also be found in the nearby LakeView Resort.

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Sts. Paul Miki, Pedro Bautista and Companions

            He became the custos or superior of the Franciscan order in the Philippines in 1590 and founded the San Francisco del Monte Church in Quezon City as a monastery which is now named as Santuario de San Pedro Bautista. As custos, he defended the basic human rights of the indigenous people of Zambales. In 1593, he became the Philippine ambassador to Japan and is credited for averting the emperor’s intended invasion of the Philippines. It was also in Japan where he built several hospitals for the poor people.

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The 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki

            This coming February 7, 2017, the beatification of Dom Justo Takayama also known as Takayama Ukon, a Japanese samurai martyr buried in the Philippines, will be celebrated in Osaka.

            Justo Takayama was Japanese lord or daimyo. He was the lord of the Takatsuki castle in Osaka under Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Justo and his father Dario pursued their lordship as Kirishitan (Christian) daimyo converting their subjects and fellow daimyos to Christianity.

            When Christian persecution broke out in 1587 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Justo Takayama chose to give up his land and property rather than give up his religion. He then continued to live in Japan under the protection of his influential friends until 1614 when he was expelled under Tokugawa Ieyasu.

            It was here that the Philippines comes into the picture. It was in the Philippines where Justo together with 300 Japanese Christian followers took refuge. They arrived at Manila on December 21, 1614 welcomed by Spanish Jesuits and Filipinos. They built a community in an area in Paco known as Plaza Dilao –a public park beside Quirino Avenue.

            Justo Takayama died of an illness forty days after his arrival on 1615 and was given a Christian and state burial befitting a daimyo. Believed to be buried in Plaza Dilao with a black marble marker, a statue of Takayama now stands in the Plaza depicted in a samurai garb and a top knot hair. The figure carries a sheathed katana upon which hangs a crucifix.

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Monument of Beato Takayama Ukon in Plaza Dilao in Paco

            In 2016, Ukon il Samurai, a documentary about his life was released. It was on January 21, 2016 when Pope Francis approved his beatification as a martyr.

            As San Pedro Bautista said to one of his friars, “Brother, when we will be martyred for the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, then we will truly be evangelical preachers, and a dead martyr will do much more than many living preachers.” May the saintly witness of these two martyrs continue to do much for us.

            San Pedro Bautista at Beato Takayama Ukon, ipanalangin niyo kami.

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